When Sickness Hits: Mom Hacks to Make Life a Little Easier


It’s a mom merit badge I would gladly have done without. For the first three years of motherhood, I thought I had avoided it altogether with the power of green smoothies and our daily supplement regimen. I may have even been a little smug about our one-sick-visit-in-three-years record.

But in the last year or so, I lost my “Epitome of Health” bragging rights and finally earned my “Sick Child Survival Badge.” One ER visit, multiple specialist visits, traumatizing blood work, a trip to Scottish Rite, four stomach bugs with a four year old and a new baby, and Hand Foot Mouth for good measure. Yep, someone hand me my vest. I’ve got a patch to iron on.

On the bright side, I’ve learned a few Mom Hacks this year that have made me feel a little more confident and capable when I hear the dreaded words, “Mommy, I don’t feel so good.”

Sick Bag

Make a Sick Bag

When my son had a miserable week with a viral cough and cold and I was trying to keep my crawling climbing baby out of the stray tissues and away from big brother’s germ-infested water bottle, I came up with this handy little solution to keep everything our patient needed nice and tidy in one bag. We could keep all the essentials up on the couch and away from the baby and they could easily travel with him to his room at bedtime.

Two tissue boxes–one full one marked CLEAN and one empty marked DIRTY–keeps nasty tissues from lining your floors and the roof of your teething baby’s mouth. We added the thermometer, a straw sippy cup of water or throat coat tea, boogie wipes and A&D ointment for that pitiful nose-rubbed-raw stage, chapstick, hand sanitizer, and essential oil roll on blends to our bag.

This bag is from Thirty-One and works great. I’m sure you know a consultant who is chomping at the bit to sell you your very own sick bag, but chances are good you have a basket or old diaper caddy that will work perfectly.

Layer Sheets and Mattress Pads

Sick or not, this is a great mom hack that every child’s bed should be set up with. Layer your baby or child’s mattress like this: mattress pad, sheet, mattress pad, sheet. Then when the unexpected late night sickness hits, you can simply strip the top sheet and mattress pad off and you’re all set with clean sheets. One of my mom friends said she’s layered up to five layers before. Now that’s pro level mommy-ing!


Layer Trash Bags for a Ready-for-Round-Two Bucket

Speaking of layers, for stomach flu and tummy bugs, line a bucket with several layers of trash bags (skip the grocery store bags–they often have holes and don’t cover all the edges) for quick and easy clean up. Simply take out the top layer, tie it off tight and take it straight to the outside trash can. I find this much easier and more hygienic than having a child hover over the toilet bowl where the worst of the virus germs are lurking. Tall popcorn bowls or small trash cans with a nice flat bottom are ideal—tipsy topsy big bowls, not so much!

Be Ready with an Extra Pop Up Bed

We hung onto our preschool nap mat even though napping days are long over, so we have a portable, washable place to quickly set up in the middle of the night in our room. (Why is it always the middle of the night, by the way?) Other moms suggested keeping an extra crib mattress tucked under the bed for such times. Whether it’s a pallet of old blankets, a nap mat, or a mattress under the bed, have a quick back up bed ready to go when the night time sickies hit.

For babies or younger toddlers that need to snuggle with mama when they aren’t feeling well, you might want to grab a couple yards of fleece to lay on top of your fitted sheet. Doubled up, it makes a pretty good liquid barrier and is softer than towels to sleep on.

Disposable Gloves

Stock Up on Disposable Gloves

Every mom should have a box of these disposable exam gloves in her cabinets. You can get them in the pharmacy section of most stores. I actually bought them for a few messy recipes I like to make, like massaged kale salad, but last week when every person in our family got the stomach bug except for me, I gave myself a nice pat on the back for being diligent about using disposable gloves for every dirty diaper change once the bug hit. With the distraction of kids, you can manage to touch a lot of things between changing the diaper and getting to the sink to wash your hands. (A little nasty note: viruses live in feces for up to two weeks, so even once other symptoms are gone, stay extra vigilant about preventing the spread of germs during diaper changes and clean those potties and bathroom doorknobs and light switches often until you’re sure it’s gone.)

Make Sick Days Memorable with an Activity Tray

When I was a child and I wasn’t feeling good, my Granny always set me up on her couch with one of those now-retro metal tv trays and worked puzzles with me and brought me Ginger Ale with a straw. It’s one of those sweet childhood memories I cherish, being spoiled rotten by a doting grandmother to ease the pain of being sick. When one of our stomach bugs landed the same day we landed in Colorado at my mom’s house, she instinctively pulled out “the sick tray” and delivered games and crackers and broth to her grandson.

Although I don’t have a cool retro metal tray (yet…I may have to order one of these), we do have a big red tray that my son loves getting to use when he’s not feeling good. Legos, play dough, puzzles, letter magnets (on a cookie sheet if you don’t have a metal tray) are all good sick day activities. Or take advantage of their lethargy and read them your favorite books. I read The Velveteen Rabbit in its entirety last week as my son dozed off and we started The Boxcar Children, my favorite childhood series.

It’s not often that our busy little ones are still and quiet and just want us near. Make the most of sick days when they aren’t driving us insane with incessant chatter by using it to give them special memories of their gentle, sweet, nurturing mother. You know, the mother we originally envisioned we would be back when our first child was still just a far off dream.

Overcome Your NoseFrida Fear

I know you’ve seen it on a “Must Have Baby Items” list or read at least a few of the 5,300 reviews on Amazon. But you’re avoiding it. You seriously can’t even. I get it. It sounds horrific, sucking snot out of your baby’s nose through a long tube. But if there is one thing more awful than actually using the NoseFrida (or other snot-sucking apparatus), it’s a stuffed up baby wandering around like a dripping faucet leaving a trail of snot on everything in her path, or trying to hold down a baby and use one of those gross suction bulbs without gouging it all the way into their tiny developing brain as they jerk around.

The NoseFrida works every time. To be up front, the baby will still hate you for it, but it’s so much faster and more effective that I feel like over the course of a 3-4 day cold, this could add up to significantly less hate. I mean, if your baby gets sick a lot, this thing could potentially keep you guys out of therapy later in life.

When All Else Fails, Try the Corkscrew Cure

When I asked friends for their favorite Mom Hack for surviving sickness with kids, wine was hands down the number one suggestion. Sometimes, when life hands you puke on your shirt and five extra loads of laundry, the only thing that will truly help is washing down the day with a glass of Pinot….and chocolate. Chocolate always helps.

What #momhacks would you add for making life a little easier when sickness hits?

Also, check out Lisa’s Tips for Surviving RSV.


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